Computer hacking has become a buzz word over the last decade. It was several years ago when computer security was not as strong as it is today. This made for many stories, including the base story for the movie "War Games". In real life, Kevin Mitnick is accredited with hacking into the NORAD database. For those who own computers, we have to be careful with everyday people getting into our personal digital equipment.
Hacking takes many forms. Tools of the hacking trade include Trojans (programs hidden in emails, attached files, and websites), worms (programs designed to propagate them through networks), and viruses (programs designed to attach themselves to many file types and continue to propagate). Several other types of hacks are available to malicious programmers and are used by inexperienced people and professionals alike.
In computer forensics (investigative computer analysis for civil and criminal litigation), the most common hack that we work with is key loggers. Key loggers record keystrokes and mouse clicks and send this information to an end user. The end user commonly is looking for passwords and other accesses. With enough information, a key logger hacker can easily move large amounts of money from bank accounts. Often, key loggers are used to watch spouses and business partners.
Hackers are good business for computer investigators. They create problems that are hard to manage; they destroy data, and create access to privileged information, which has further implications. To catch a computer hacker on a personal computer, an investigator connects to the infected computer and begins a series of processes. Much of the work is following the path of the infection from the infection point, through the Internet (commonly), and to the point of origin. A computer forensic expert is commonly used because the work done can be used towards litigation. Forensic examiners can analyze the data sent with an email and trace the location of where it was sent from, and who sent the mail.